Bone broth big business for Alberta bison farmer

Bison bone broth. Bob Holm swears by it.

He's the owner of Straw Man Farm, an Alberta-based all-natural farm "specializing in Canada's original red meat, bison."

Holm has been producing bison meat from his farm near Sandy Beach, northwest of Edmonton for years.

But he recently started taking stock of a new business venture. It's a recipe as old as the ages.

"You just take the bones and you boil them and you get all the proteins, minerals, gelatin, collagen out of the bones and you use that for soup base or making rice or cooking with," Holm said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"A regular soup stock has a little bit of bone broth in it — and then they add water and vegetables and different things to it to make into a stock — but ours is straight bone broth, nothing added."

In 2012, Holm, his three sons, and business partners Paul Falkowski and Garet Bonn, bought 500 acres of farmland about 50 kilometres north of St. Albert.

They bought 50 bison cows and slowly built up their operation. Today, Straw Man Farm is home to 180 bison, more than 100 chickens, an assortment of pigs, and goats, and organic hydroponic crops like strawberries and bok choy.

 'Everyone was talking about it'

After reading about the health benefits of broth, Holm began boiling the bones of his slaughtered grass-fed bovines to make a thick, meaty brew, and test-tasting the concoction himself.

Not only does broth production ensure that none of the slaughtered animal goes to waste, it's opened up a whole new set of clientele for Holm.

Bone broth has become the magic elixir of the day. 

It's hailed as a super food and natural remedy for ailments, from 'leaky gut syndrome' to hair loss.

Broth cleanse diets promise to purge the pounds, while homeopathic doctors praise its ability to ease digestion, soothe joints, boost immunity and build bone strength.

The Los Angeles Laker's have added broth to their official team diet.

"When we started making it, it seemed like everyone was talking about it, not just me," said Holm who notes the broth has been a best seller.  

"I don't know if I would call it a fad because I think it's going to stay."

'It's definitely the bone broth'

While the marrow-infused liquid may be hearty, nourishing and delicious, there is scant research to back-up the more lofty health claims.

"The claims often exceed the evidence," states a 2015 Harvard Health publication, which notes that research on the benefits of broth date back more than 80 years.

A 1934 nutritional analysis in The Archives of Disease in Childhood concluded that bone broths are not of "great nutritional value," but other smaller studies have suggested that chicken broth can ease inflammation and clear out congested sinuses.

But Holm has no time for naysayers. To him, bison is the ultimate sustainable, natural and healthy food, and he knows in his bones that the broth has its benefits.

"I can't believe the difference in my body," Holm said. "My hands were very sore. I was getting a lot of arthritis in them. I'm a drummer too and I couldn't hold onto my sticks anymore ... I couldn't grip, and now my hands are stronger than they ever have been.

"My hair is coming back, my teeth are better. It's just amazing. It's definitely the bone broth."